Feb 7, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Lightspeed and the Human Hand, No. 2

Jonathan Arena explores art, craft and design in Japan: Entry # 2

The United States experiences Japan, in large part, through its design culture — from ancient ceramic traditions and minimalist architecture, to today’s high-tech gaming, fashion, and technologically driven lifestyle. Design is a traditional and necessary function of everyday life – fully ingrained into Japanese lifestyle. This is what makes design in Japan so dynamic, and allows creativity to permeate the society in a way that is unique to the Archipelago.


If one tries to look backwards and connect the dots, an interesting trail emerges. Consider Tokyo – a eclectic alpha city, largely a product of it’s geographical location as a port city that facilitated its international trade. The country of Japan also has a very unique location in the world, prompting Kenya Hara to create his well-known “pachinko” metaphor. Hara explains that “if you take Eurasia and tilt it 90 degrees to see it as a platform of a pachinko game (Japanese upright pinball), all the balls pop up around Rome, for example, travel through various places in the world and accumulate in the catch at the bottom, where the Japanese archipelago is situated. Below Japan is the boundless Pacific Ocean. It is conceivable that Japan has thus been influenced by cultures from around the globe”.

When looking at this metaphor in historical context, Hara’s idea outlines the path of Alexander the Great and the Greek conquest to the east, forging the beginnings of what would later become the Silk Road. This happened over the course of  3,000 years; a slow permeation of language, craft, technique, and enlightenment. When this infusion of culture is compared to the transfer rate of ideas today made possible by the internet and digital communication, the observation might be made that, as a global society, we need to spend more time focusing on our own process.

Jonathan Arena attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island where he received a BFA Graphic Design in 2009. He is most inspired by creative workspaces, uncommon food combinations, and perfect dovetail joints. In his free time, he likes to build things by hand, use his polaroid land camera, and create small experimental websites. Jonathan currently works as a UI/UX designer in San Francisco, California.

2 Comments

  • […] Jonathan Arena attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island where he received a BFA Graphic Design in 2009. He is most inspired by creative workspaces, uncommon food combinations, and perfect dovetail joints. In his free time, he likes to build things by hand, use his polaroid land camera, and create small experimental websites. Jonathan currently works as a UI/UX designer in San Francisco, California. […]

  • […] Jonathan Arena attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island where he received a BFA Graphic Design in 2009. He is most inspired by creative workspaces, uncommon food combinations, and perfect dovetail joints. In his free time, he likes to build things by hand, use his polaroid land camera, and create small experimental websites. Jonathan currently works as a UI/UX designer in San Francisco, California. […]

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